The Emotional Cycle of Separation

Parental separation is not new.

What is new is our growing understanding of the effect that mums and dad have on their
family when they leave for a period of time. Separation affects both the departing parent and the remaining family before, during and after their separation.

The reaction of each child to their Mum or Dad departing will be different depending on such things as the child's age and developmental stage, the way parents have
informed them of the absence, the length of time that parents will be away, the environment into which their parent is going, the coping strategies that the children have already formed and the support the child receives before, during and after the separation.

My Daddy's Going Away and Mummy's Home were written to support the child, parents and carers through the emotional cycle of separation. The global success of the books demonstrate that they certainly do this.

Separation anxiety is a fear of loss. Emotions similar to those seen in bereavement (referring not just to loss of life but also to things like identity, job, role, physical ability to do things) will
all come into play. If you understand this as a parent or teacher, you can spot when trouble is brewing and the likelihood of the separation causing short term pain or long term negative effects
will be much reduced.

The story and verses within each book follow the framework of Kathleen Logan's "Emotional Cycle of Deployment". Kathleen was a US Navy officer who studied the effects of deployment on Service families. Her finding were originally published in 1987 and the basic emotional cycle retains its relevance to all families today.

The cycle consists of the following stages, all of which are subtly referenced in the books:

Stage 1. Anticipation of Departure
Stage 2. Detachment & Withdrawal
Stage 3. Immediate Effects of Separation & Emotional Disorganisation
Stage 4. Establishing a New Routine
Stage 5. Anticipating Homecoming
Stage 6. Adjustment / Renegotiating Roles
Stage 7. Reuniting / Reintegration & Stabilisation

As you read the books, neither you nor the child will notice this pattern, but its presence underscores the psychological relevance of the work and its benefit to the child. It will act as a catalyst for discussion and knowing the hidden meaning of the book will help you, as parent or teacher, provide comforting ideas to the anxious child.